Who needs the House of Commons when you’ve got dogs, ponies and Mike Duffy? Liveblogging the PM’s Travelling Budget Report Roadshow

Sadly, ITQ was not able to hitch the last train to Cambridge in order to be there to liveblog the stimultastic spectacular set to get underway later this morning, so she’ll just have to watch it on television like everyone else. Including, as far as we can tell, the finance minister, which seems odd, since it is his report after all.

That’s not going to stop her from sharing her thoughts on the staging of today’s event, as well as – of course – the actual numbers, presuming there actually are any of those and this isn’t just an upbeat recap of the last three months of #ottawaspends announcements that CanWest’s David Akin has been so diligently twittering. The fact that there’s no lockup for reporters lucky enough to be there to cover it in person strongly suggests the latter, but we’ll see.

Anyway, I’ll keep my running commentary up here in the main post, but feel free to use the comment thread to add your own thoughts. In the meantime, here’s a quick reminder of what the parliamentary budget office was hoping to see in these quarterly reports.


Colleague Madan from CityTV is on location in Cambridge, and sends along these pre-show tidbits from the front:

Here’s the scene: dozens of seniors lined up early this am outside the armenian community ctr in cambridge. They were brought into the main auditorium, seated in amphitheatre style… A made-for-tv event to be moderated by mike duffy. There are 2 giant screens on each side of PM.

He describes the scene as “part informercial, part Oprah”. WHEE!

Oh, and it’s not clear whether the PM will take questions from reporters,  but ITQ is sure that the above mentioned seniors will grill him during the town hall session. Senator Duffy, meanwhile, is to be referred to as the “master of ceremonies”, which suggests that the organizers — I’m assuming the party is picking up at least part of the tab for this event — are finally getting into the spirit of things. Really, if you’re stuck on probation and statutorily required to provide updates to a sure-to-be-unwowed opposition, you may as well have some fun with it, right?

11:02 a.m.

Okay, so I should probably give y’all a heads up, on the off chance that there are any readers out there unfamiliar with the concept of Harper Standard Time. Although this event was supposed to get underway at 11:00 a.m., I don’t think anyone is expecting him to take the stage before 11:15 a.m. at the absolute earliest, which would probably mark a new personal best as far as prime ministerial punctuality.

11:06 a.m.

Yup — according to Colleague Madan, security just confirmed that they’re “delayed” — no word on how long that might take. Also, he’s spotted at least one spectator clad in a fetching blue Harper #1 campaign t-shirt.

11:09 a.m.

The PM may be late, but the Just The Facts news releases are running on time. From the fired-up-just-for-the-occasion Little Shop newswire comes the following pointed reminder:

As Liberals prepare to respond to the economic update provided by the Prime Minister today, they should recall that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said he would have to wait until September or October to properly assess whether stimulus spending was working

11:16 a.m.
Oh, dear — in “just over fifty minutes”, according to CBC Newsworld, the World Health Organization will hold a press conference on its decision to declare swine flu a phase six pandemic — yes, that’s bad; this is the first since 1968. But from a craven political perspective, what does this mean for the PM’s speech? Will the networks stick around for the whole thing — or cut away once it becomes clear that Senator Duffy isn’t going to suddenly transform back into a journalist and go off the PMO script?

11:22 a.m.

Is it really that difficult to get the prime minister somewhere on time? Couldn’t they set his watch an hour ahead, so he’d still get that frission so savoured by control freaks of keeping people waiting without causing massive logistical inconveniences for everyone else? Wait, that would totally get whatever luckless aide was blamed for it fired, wouldn’t it?

11:30 a.m.

The Duffy has landed! As per Colleague Madan, the distinguished parliamentarian is now “warming up the crowd” for what he describes as “the broadcast”. You think maybe he’s a bit nostalgic for the old days?

11:35 a.m.

More from Colleague M:

Duffys opening line before the crowd:  “what is this, the price is right”?  No, the plan is right”.
Kind of set the tone

11:37 a.m.
AND HERE WE GO! (Apologies for the boldcapsiness, but I figured I should make the ARRIVAL OF THE PRIME MINISTER stand out from the filler.)

Yes, he’s hit the stage — Ringmaster-of-ceremonies Senator Duffy doesn’t seem to have made it into the frame, alas — and he seems to be in a middling-to-good mood. His tie is unremarkable, as, ITQ is forced to say, is his speech, which she’s already read in its entirety, more than once, what with it going out under embargo just after 10:00 a.m. You all forgive me for keeping it from you, right? I haven’t seen the graphics that reportedly go with it, if that mitigates any.

11:43 a.m.

First person to link to the marvelling columnist that the PM just quoted gets — well, nothing, really, other than gloating rights. Meanwhile, I’m trying to find a copy of the speech online so that I don’t actually have to liveblog every word — so far, it really does seem to be the #ottawaspends Greatest Hits. Hey, remember Calgary’s Ring Road? The Summerside Wind Farm? The Evergreen Transit Line? Good times. Or at least announcements of good times to come.

11:48 a.m.

BTW, the hard copy of the speech includes what has to be the most liberal – no pun intended, I swear – use of exclamation points that ITQ can remember seeing in a PMO production. It’s kind of adorable, actually.

11:53 a.m.

I cannot believe that Senator Duffy still hasn’t managed to make it into the shot — but it sounds like the PM may be about to segue into the much-anticipated town hall portion of the show, so it shouldn’t be long before he’s back in the spotlight, literally and figuratively. Meanwhile, Harper has hit the less cheery section of his speech — the unpleasant matter of the bill — although he’s doing his best to make it sound not nearly as bad as those handwringing economists will make it sound.  Plus – remember all those tax cuts? Yeah — those! (No, he’s not announcing another one — but it would totally make the PM’s day, and maybe even help the economy, if you would all devote a few minutes to thinking about how much that has helped us weather the recession. Which is, he’d also like you to remember, not nearly as bad here as it is across much of the rest of the world.

11:58 a.m.

The opposition parties really, really love taxes, by the way – it’s all our poor prime minister can do to resist their constant clamour for more of them. Carbon taxes, GST hikes – it’s a three-way conspiracy. Will you be tricked? No, really, will you? Because the polls are starting to make him the teeniest bit worried that you just might — or some of you, especially those of you in the 905 region. (Seriously, y’all, did you see those Harris Decima numbers? 50/27 in the GTA? That has to be a rogue, right?)

12:03 p.m.

That’s it for the speech — the PM is now shaking hands with Team Politely Enthusiastic Human Backdrop as various staffers — including Dimitri, unless my eyes deceive me — duck under the line of camerafire and hit the stage. Both networks have now dropped the live feed for the moment — they’ll go back for the Q&A, apparently. Oh, and Ignatieff will respond to the update later this afternoon.

12:06 a.m.

Another bulletin from CM:

At the start of the PMs remarks, some guy giving a standing-o in the back row of the side bleachers just fell off and tumbled downwards and hit the floor.

Good news is he’s ok, but I’ve noticed he’s since toned down his enthusiastic clapping

12:07 p.m.
It’s DuffyTime! DuffyAndThePrimeMinisterTime, that is — CTV is still in studio, so I missed the very beginning, but the “interview” between the former journalist and the man who appointed him to the Senate has gotten underway, and CBC Newsworld is covering it live. Wait, and now they’re not — Nancy just interrupted what sounded like a humdinger of a question — something about whether this brilliant plan is too ambitious (never!) — to throw to Rosemary Barton, who is following the stimultacular from Ottawa. This is why I hate liveblogging television – being captive to the whims of the network gods.

12:12 p.m.

Well, both networks are now on the WHO press conference, which means ITQ is severely limited in her ability to keep you posted on what’s going on in Cambridge, although we’re hoping Colleague Madan will come to the rescue with an exclusive report on the rest of that hard-hitting Duffy/Harper interview.  Meanwhile, the people in ITQ’s television – by which, of course, she means Craig Oliver and Rosemary Barton, for CTV and CBC, respectively, seem to think that the report itself may lack certain niggling details — like, for instance, the number of jobs created.

12:20 p.m.

Still radio — and television, and every-other-medium — silence from Cambridge, but thanks to, you can at least read the full script here.

12:26 p.m.

I was wrong! Apparently, the “town hall” has been streaming in pixelicious glory on this whole time – and thanks to Commenter Onlinereader and KB for the tip, although now I feel like I’ve let y’all down. Anyway, I’ve got it up now, and the PM is assuring the crowd that grey skies are gonna clear up, so put on a happy face, and yes, I’m paraphrasing slightly. Ooh, but he has a story for us — and he’s demonstrating the power of smileyness, even. It involves a meeting with Chinese officials, who proceeded to “give him advice on media management”; he informed them that “he didn’t think some of those pieces of advice were transferrable to our country.” Um, he does know this is still going out to the world outside his Potemkin town hall, right?  Because funnily enough, not everyone finds jokes about oppressive anti-free press policies to be hilarious.

Aw, and on that note, Senator Duffy wraps up the show with an unabashedly adoring thank you to the prime minister, and invites the crowd to come up and meet him afterwards. I guess we’ll have to wait for an update from Colleague Madan to find out how that goes.

Thus concludes the most frustrating prime ministerial liveblogging ever attempted by ITQ. Hope it wasn’t too hard to follow – and see you later this afternoon for Natural Resources!